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A futile unilateral gesture?

Lawson invited the Lordships to "pretend the planet is warming" - and ignore the figures from the Met Office and Hadley Centre. (Lawson said he didn't see the evidence supported the claim that the planet was cooling, but it certainly hadn't done a lot of warming since the 1998 El Nino). "The majority of climate scientists do not think that if there were a warming, it would be a disaster." So what then?

The point of the bill was symbolic - and only "makes sense" if other countries were to follow suit and make similarly symbolic gestures, he argued.

(The UK only contributes 2 per cent of man-made CO2 emissions worldwide, while worldwide human emissions are only 2 per cent of the planet's CO2 output. And the planet's CO2 is about one tenth of greenhouse gas. So the rhetoric is about "setting an example".)

The problem, said Lawson, was that Europe had planned to isolate the US, a plan that had "backfired horribly". This left the EU making symbolic pledges of its own - no one expects China, the world's biggest CO2 emitter, or India to follow. Except that the Europeans are now backing off. The catchy 20 per cent by 2020 reduction has been abandoned. Germans need their coal, the new members like Poland need theirs - and are playing industrialisation catch-up - and the whole thing is falling apart.

"Nothing will happen. It can only be agreed unanimously and will be looked at again in December this year, after the Poznan meeting, which I hope the Minister will grace with his presence. It will be an educational event for him."

Lawson highlighted a recent conference called "Cashing in on Carbon" in which an investment group featuring Lord Stern was prominently featured.

"So the people who gave you the glories and the joys of mortgage-backed securities are now offering the great business opportunity of carbon-backed securities."

Meanwhile the emissions trading system was a "scam": China made a lot of money selling these worthless indulgences. So much money, it had to tax them. Climate change had also proved to be a vote-loser for the Canadian Liberal opposition - its "green shift" cost it the election - and in New Zealand, said Lawson. He also warned the Tory party not to find itself "high and dry" with symbolic climate gestures.

It was almost a lone voice, as the House of Lords nodded through the Amendments.

Back in the Commons, the bill was hailed by climate change minister Joan Ruddock as a "triumph for the UK". ®

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